Master butcher Riki Kerekere honoured for meat industry contribution

By Jessica Tyson

Master butcher Riki Kerekere has been presented with the Christie Award in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the retail meat industry. 

Now in its 11th year, the award is given to a member of the industry who has gone "above and beyond" in their efforts for the industry.

Kerekere, of Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki and Ngāpuhi, is the operations manager of Countdown Meat and Livestock in Otahuhu. Kerekere has been an Alto Butcher of the Year winner, a member of New Zealand’s butchery team, The Hellers Sharp Blacks, and a World Butchers’ Challenge judge in Belfast in 2018.

Retail Meat New Zealand says Kerekere is the heart and soul of the processing plant, overseeing a 450-strong team that supplies every Countdown store in the North Island with meat products seven days a week.

Kerekere says, “I’m just honoured to have joined that list of amazing people who have paved the way for the industry and made things possible for me and my career. I’m just so happy to have won.”  

Lifelong mahi

Kerekere has been involved in the meat industry all his working life. He started out as a clean-up boy, then progressed through to a management role, becoming instrumental in mentoring and training staff and apprentices.

Some years ago, Kerekere nominated himself as the person to resurrect Countdown’s interest and success in the Young Butchers and Apprentices competition. This drive resulted in considerable success and created significantly more interest within the wider meat industry.

“My passion is our industry obviously but I grew up in Otara, an Otara boy and, because we’re based in South Auckland, I’ve always had this passion to try to help some of our younger generation Māori and Pasifika and it’s always been my thing. I’ve been lucky enough to have some great people, great apprentices, that I’ve taken on and I’ve watched them progress and go on and do great things and, for me, that’s the reward.”

Kerekere's apprentice Cherise Redden won the 2019 ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice of the Year award.

Highly respected

Retail Meat New Zealand says Kerekere has a unique personal approach and knowledge, which is highly respected not only by his own team, but also by those in the wider meat industry.

Kerekere says, “As long as they have the drive, then there’s a way. The pathway is there, they just need to grab it and run with it.”

Kerekere joins a list of other Christie Award recipients including The Mad Butcher, Sir Peter Leitch; Todd Heller, founder of Hellers NZ and butcher and Beef + Lamb New Zealand CEO Rod Slater among others.

“Thes are names I hold in high regard as far as our industry is concerned, so I’m very honoured,” Kerekere says.

Retail Meat New Zealand president Jason Trewern says Kerekere is a great role model and leader and has worked passionately to support young butchers coming into the trade.

“Countdown’s success in the ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice competition in recent years is testament to that. He’s given many hours of his time to support industry events and butchery competitions over the years both as a judge and competitor of high distinction.”